According to a recent product recall index report by Sedgwick, a Memphis, Tenn.-based provider of technology-enabled risk, benefits and integrated business solutions, recalls in the first quarter of 2023 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased 23.2% from the previous quarter to 117 events.

However, the Sedgwick report also found that the number of units impacted decreased by 78.7% to 39.3 million.

Recalls by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) remained the same at 11 events for the second consecutive quarter, though the number of pounds recalled increased 1,129% to 2.9 million.

Looking forward to the rest of 2023, Sedgwick said the FDA plans to address a variety of areas including allergens, dietary supplements, food additives, topics related to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and labeling.

“As the number of recall events increase across industries, the risks to manufacturers grow more serious, with increased regulatory enforcement and a more publicized recall process,” said Chris Harvey, Sedgwick senior vice president of brand protection. “Regulators are working to prioritize product safety while balancing innovation with oversight — meaning manufacturers can expect to contend with new rules and regulations. Businesses will need to remain agile to keep pace with these changes and prepare for future ones.”

According to Los Angeles-based Global Food Safety Consultants (GFSC), the FDA published an updated FDA Food Code in December 2022 and added amendments to the 2022 Food Code in early 2023.

GFSC highlighted the following as key updates for restaurants and instore deli/prepared foods:

Sesame has been added as a major food allergen, which affects labeling requirements. Food manufacturers must now add it to the “Contains/may contain” section of the food label.

Commercially packaged food with manufacturer’s cooking instructions must be cooked according to those instructions before it is used in ready-to-eat foods or offered in unpackaged form for human consumption. There is an exception if the packaging indicates the food can be consumed without cooking.

If the manufacturer indicates a product has not been processed to control pathogens, this product should be cooked to “an appropriate time and temperature.” The kitchen has some leeway to make decisions about appropriate time and temperature but should do so very carefully.

Businesses may donate unused food items as long as they have been “stored, prepared, packaged, displayed, and labeled according to Food Code safety provisions.”

“These new rules help provide clarity for restaurant owners and managers while providing safer end products for consumers,” said Lisa Nicely, co-founder of GFSC. “It also allows restaurants to reduce food waste and help others by providing guidelines for food donations. Restaurants were not prohibited from donating unused food before, but without specific guidelines, many restaurant owners were reluctant to do so because of legal concerns.”

This article is an excerpt from the August 2023 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the full Food Safety feature and more in the digital edition here.